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A sports photographer in rural Canada sends a picture of a high school athlete, Tina Menzhal, to a Montréal fashion agency. This starts Tina on a career taking her from Canada to Paris to Montréal again, to Manhattan, to the world, and then home, through two boyfriends, two husbands, and innumerable TV interviews, either with nasty smiling scandalmongers or with gushing witless twits. In nearly every case, Tina never gets to finish a sentence. She has a suave agent, paparazzi are everywhere ("What the celebs forget, there's always a camera," says one), and a documentary filmmaker is on hand as well. What is it that Tina thinks, feels, and wants: will we ever find out? Written by
Fame. According to Andy Worhol, everybody gets his or her fifteen minutes. How you react when plunged into the spotlight, or whether you even get a choice is something all together different. Tina Menzhal goes from being just another small town girl playing hockey to international superstar when her picture finds its way into the right hands. She suddenly finds herself, starring as fruit in TV commercials, walking the runways in New York and Paris and dating the rich and other famous. Thanks to the invasive camera of a documentary filmmaker, we get an inside view of the madness.
The famous people project an image - they go to all the right parties, drive the snazziest cars, date the shiny people and attract a legion of hangers on. Money, a need to be seen and on occasion pheromones, drive their life and relationships, and they lack any real substance. They are usually found in the company of the most vacuous species of all - the supermodels. Although these flawless walking trademarks are literally placed on a pedestal, with people constantly fawning over them, they are secretly reviled, derided as phonies and thought to be incapable of forming a coherent thought on any subject beyond make-up. Even more bizarre is the fact that most women will go to ridiculous lengths to look like them.
Denys Arcand's Stardom is merciless in its indictment of the media, fame, and the cult of beauty. The media - from "legitimate" reporters to Jerry Springer style talk show hosts - are portrayed as scheming, incompetent, sensationalist sycophants who will do whatever possible to get the story, build up the stars and then spend the rest of the time trying to tear them down. No detail of someone's life is too private to escape scrutiny, indeed the more personal it is the better the story - not a big stretch The symbiosis between the media and fame is depicted as an incestuous co-dependent relationship.
Cast in the role of Tina is relative newcomer (she had a small role in a mini-series) Jessica Pare. Although she had originally sent in a tape for a minor role, when she walked in for her audition Arcand knew immediately that he had found his Tina. Pare has the necessary combination of stunning beauty, and innocence to be believable as the young unknown catapulted to superstardom. Dan Akroyd, is brilliant as the staid, married restauranteur who becomes so enraptured with Tina's beauty that he completely loses himself and everything he holds dear pursuing her. Frank Langella is amusing as the aging diplomat caught in a late life crisis, who tries vainly to control Tina so that he may bask in her beauty, and is burned when he gets too close to the flame.
Artful direction, up close and personal cinematography and great performances sometimes make you forget you're watching a mockumentary. At times I felt like I was watching an accident - I was repulsed and intrigued at the same time. The characters, although somewhat outlandish at times, are not overly ridiculous - for anyone with any doubts, pick up a copy of "Variety" or "People" to see what fame can do to person.
The real question is whether life will imitate art for Ms. Pare.
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